Chelsea romp to victory
Chelsea banished their away-day blues and narrowed the gap on Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester United to seven points with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Bolton at the Reebok Stadium.
Goals from Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda, Nicolas Anelka and Ramires gave manager Carlo Ancelotti the result he craved.
It was Chelsea's first win on the road since October and even though United have a game in hand Ancelotti must have renewed hope they can go on and retain their crown.
Certainly they have terrific attacking options and managed to secure the win without Frank Lampard, who had suffered a recent calf injury.
The match was preceded by an immaculately observed minute's silence for Bolton legend Nat Lofthouse, who died earlier this month, and it was the hosts who threatened first when a miscued clearance from John Terry, who had shrugged off a back problem, landed at the feet of Stuart Holden in the second minute. However, the American failed to test goalkeeper Petr Cech from a good position.
The home side kept up the momentum and Kevin Davies headed into the arms of the goalkeeper following a flick-on from Johan Elmander.
Chelsea, however, opened the scoring in the 10th minute with a magnificent effort from Drogba.
Malouda won the ball from Gretar Steinsson and released Drogba 30 yards out. He caught the ball sweetly and thumped a swerving shot past Jussi Jaaskelainen and into the net to gasps around the ground.
It was Drogba's 10th goal of the season in all competitions and just the boost Ancelotti was looking for.
Play switched back down the other end and a minute later Cech kept his side on level terms, getting a great touch to turn a Matt Taylor header around the post following a cross from Martin Petrov.
Chelsea then extended their lead in the 41st minute with defender Gary Cahill cursing his luck. He managed to block Malouda's cross but it rebounded to the Frenchman who scored at the second attempt, his shot beating Jaaskelainen at the goalkeeper's near post. That strike took him equal with Drogba on 10 goals.
Bolton almost pulled a goal back a minute before the break with Cech doing well to push away Elmander's clever flick.
Davies, though, was back doing some defensive work in the 52nd minute, heading away an inswinging free-kick from Drogba.
Taylor had been penalised for a challenge on the Chelsea striker which incensed the home supporters.
Bolton, however, suffered another blow in the 56th minute when Chelsea went 3-0 ahead.
Michael Essien delivered a cross from the right and Zat Knight seemed to be distracted by Drogba. The ball broke to Anelka, who swept it home for his 13th goal of the season.
Bolton boss Owen Coyle decided to switch things around and brought on Rodrigo Moreno and Mark Davies for Petrov and Fabrice Muamba, and Davies came close in the 67th minute after latching on to a through-ball from Elmander.
The midfielder tried to lob the ball over Cech but the goalkeeper stood tall and made the save.
Bolton could not handle the speed of Chelsea's counter-attacks and it was becoming a rout.
Ramires made it 4-0 in the 74th minute with his first goal for the club after arriving from Benfica in the summer.
Essien was again instrumental in the build-up, finding Anelka in the area. When his shot was blocked, the Brazil midfielder swept home the rebound.
Anelka almost got his second of the night in stoppage time but Jaaskelainen somehow managed to turn his close range effort around the post.
It was a disappointing night for Bolton, who paid proper homage to the late, great Lofthouse, and they have now taken only eight points from 10 games.